OVER THE MOON BLUEBERRY-LEMON MACARONS

Today my original plan was to share a series of macarons with different styles of decoration. But, I am so over the moon with these, they elbowed every macaron in the waiting line and here they are. Alone in all their golden glory.

OVER THE MOON BLUEBERRY-LEMON MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g powdered sugar  
115 g almond flour  
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar (optional)
100 g granulated sugar  
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract
blue and black food gel color (I used Sugarflair and Americolor)
Egyptian gold luster powder
everclear

For filling:
60 g unsalted butter softened 
160 g powdered sugar
1 tablespoon blueberry jam
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp lemon oil
pinch of salt
heavy cream if needed to adjust consistency

Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar and ground almonds/almond meal in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. Add all the sugar at once and keep whisking until the meringue is soft and shiny. Add vanilla and food colors.

Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond/almond meal mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (round, ¼ or ½ inch in diameter or 6 – 12 mm). Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size. If making snowmen, make a template with two circles joined together to form head and body, and pipe each section. 

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes. When they form a skin, use a very small fondant baller tool to draw a moon.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F. Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. The macarons should release without sticking. Mix the golden luster dust with everclear and paint the dimpled region. Flick some of the suspension to get a few golden dots on the smooth part of the shells.

For the filling, use a hand-held electric mixer and whisk the butter until creamy. Add the other ingredients except the heavy cream, and whisk until creamy and smooth. If needed, add a bit of heavy cream to loosen the mixture.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of filling to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge. Store in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I recently saw macarons on Instagram with this dimpled effect but absolutely no mention of the technique used. I realized it was similar to what I’ve done with sugar cookies before, so I played with it a bit. At first I thought that I should bake the shells and make the dimples while they were warm. Don’t even try it, it just cracks in a pathetic way. Could be a nice effect too, depending on how you manage to create cracks, but definitely not what I was hoping for. So what you do is allow the skin to form, and right before you bake the shells, very delicately press the surface with the smallest fondant baller tool you can find (mine is the smallest from this set). You can also use the handle of a small painting brush. Bake as you would normally do, then paint the dimpled region with gold luster powder. I used Egyptian gold which is the brightest kind.

Fling some extra gold with a brush over the surface, and that’s about it. The recipe was my default, but I changed one important step: instead of adding the granulated sugar in stages, I dumped the whole amount after the egg whites were starting to leave traces as the whisk moved through them, maybe 1 to 2 minutes after starting the Kitchen Aid. The meringue will take slightly longer to firm, but what that does is give a better chance for the sugar to fully dissolve. You would not do that if making an Angel Food Cake that requires a very light and airy meringue, but for macarons it works like a charm. You can read the rationale behind it in this article. Interestingly, this method is the one favored by JC Gregg, The Macaron King, former contestant of the Great American Baking Show, season 3. I really like how much simpler it is, and how it improves the shells. Particularly the base, there are no crystals making the surface rough, or the shell threatening to glue to the silpat. Smooth like a mirror, as you can see in my composite photo above. I am sold.

It still amazes me that you can totally mess up the surface of a macaron and have it bake as if nothing happened. The possibilities of decoration are mind-blowing, so if you are into baking macarons, consider trying this method. Way too cool for words, don’t you agree?

Some shells baked without the dimpled effect were decorated with a stencil. Silver stars to go along with the golden moon…

ONE YEAR AGO: Springtime Macarons Bake-Along

TWO YEARS AGO: Macarons for a Little Princess

THREE YEARS AGO: Gilding the Sourdough Loaf

FOUR YEARS AGO: Lolita Joins the Bewitching Kitchen

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cashew Cream Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Margaritas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Smoked Salmon Appetizer

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Clementine Cake

NINE YEARS AGO: Springtime Spinach Risotto

TEN YEARS AGO: The end of green bean cruelty

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Torta di Limone e Mandorle

WOOD PLANK COOKIES, LEARNING FROM THE BEST

My cookie-baking adventures go on and on. So many different techniques to try, sometimes I am not sure which one to go for next. But the moment I saw my tent-baking friend Tanya sharing her method to make wood plank cookies, I dropped all other projects that were waiting, and jumped on it, like a Jack Russell on a snake. Or Oscar on an ankle (missed the story? click here). She shared a blog post and three tutorials to come up with a showstopper production, involving a bunny rabbit and gorgeous tulips. I confess that the skill to pipe the rabbit on the cookie is beyond my reach, so I opted to let the bunny go and bring butterflies, made as Royal icing transfers. A lot less stressful. I’m quite pleased with the way they turned out…

CHERRY-ALMOND SUGAR COOKIES
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup (227g) unsalted butter,cubed, cold
1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
zest of half an orange
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups (420g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (60g) cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cherry extract (Olive Nation)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (Olive Nation)

to decorate:
your favorite recipe of Royal Icing (I use Tanya’s)
royal icing transfers (butterflies and flowers)
food-safe pen

Heat the oven to 350 F and line baking sheets with parchment. Sift the flour, cornstarch and salt, and set aside. Mix the sugar with the zest rubbing it well to release the oils. Cream the butter with the flavored sugar, just until smooth and combined.

Mix in the eggs and flavoring extracts until incorporated. Add the flour mixture on low-speed, in three portions. The mixture will seem very dry and sandy at first, but after a couple of minutes the mixer it will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Remove the dough from the bowl, cut in two pieces and wrap one in plastic. Roll the second piece of dough out between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cut into rounds, press a detail flower using another type of cutter, and freeze for 10 minutes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. I like to have a slight golden tone at the edges.

Cool on a rack and decorate as desired. For the bee decoration you’ll need thick consistency Royal icing in cream color for the background, and leaf green for details. A brown food pen with reasonably fine tip, food gel dye in caramel or brown color, vodka, and royal icing transfers of the decorations you feel like adding to the plank.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: To see Tanya’s gorgeous cookies visit her site with a click here. Those who have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve never been into cookie decorating, and Royal icing scared every cell of my body. My approach for a decade had been “thanks, but no thanks.” Being part of the Great American Baking Show forced me to deal with the issue. Although I never got as far as making decorated cookies in the tent, I admit that what I had planned for that particular episode was not that great. Once the show was over, I set as a goal for myself to improve, and ended up following the footsteps of Tanya in her online tutorials. She literally turned me into a cookie addict. Cookie making, that is. So, if you suffer from the same problem I used to, check her blog. Consider also supporting her through Patreon (or offering a subscription to someone you love).

There are several ways to generate a wood appearance on cookies, but I like Tanya’s method because it minimizes the amount of icing you’ll need. She lays a background color with a spatula, gives it a little texture, draws the veins of the wood with a pen and goes over it all with diluted food dye. It is all very carefully detailed in her tutorial, step by step. For my decorations, I made small butterflies with Royal Icing. I drew templates by hand with a very loose butterfly format, and piped white icing. For transfers, you want icing that flows smoothly from the tip of your bag (I use tipless bags for that), or from the icing tip. But, it needs to be thick enough to hold it’s shape. I’d say about 20 seconds is what you want. For the base and the leaves and stems, you’ll need thicker than that. Once the butterflies dried completely (overnight is best), I painted them with luster gold and drew a pattern with a fine tip black food pen.

The daffodils were made according to a tutorial from Haniela which you can find here.

The plank is a very nice background to add to several shapes of cookies, and compatible with many different additions: birds, flowers, animals, butterflies, or even a simple monogram. And the plaque shape is also quite interesting to play with, even if you decide to go with a simple, solid color background.

ONE YEAR AGO: OMG Spinach Pies

TWO YEARS AGO: Avgolemono Soup, My Way

THREE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Chocolate Twist Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Dan Lepard Times Three

FIVE YEARS AGO: Turkey Portobello Burger

SIX YEARS AGO: Raspberry Ricotta Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2014

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Whole-Wheat Pasta with Lemony Tomatoes and Spinach

NINE YEARS AGO: Blood Orange Duck: A work in progress

TEN YEARS AGO: Grilled Mahi-mahi with citrus marinade

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Memories of Pastéis\

CHICKEN MEATBALLS, POTSTICKER STYLE

Potstickers are perhaps my favorite food in the universe. You would think that because I bake a lot of sweets, savory things are secondary in my world, but in fact it is the opposite. I am satisfied with one cookie or even just a bite. But potstickers? Self-control becomes a serious issue. Inspiration came from a must-have cookbook, Dinner: Changing the Game. But I used ground chicken instead of pork, which reduces the fat content a bit, and adapted it to hold its shape better. Turned out excellent, and contrary to what usually happens in our dinners, there were no leftovers. Because… self-control….

POTSTICKER-STYLE CHICKEN MEATBALLS
(inspired by Dinner: Changing the Game)

1 pound ground chicken (white meat is fine)
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 serrano chile, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian fish sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup almond meal or almond flour
for finishing sauce:
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon Sriracha or to taste
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon light brown sugar

Heat the oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, combine the ground chicken, cilantro, Serrano pepper, ginger, lime zest and juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, almond flour and salt. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls.

Arrange the meatballs in a single layer over aluminum foil (I like to use non-stick foil). Bake until cooked through, around 20 minutes, turning them over mid-way through baking. As they bake, prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients.

After they are cooked, brush them lightly with the sauce and keep in the oven for a couple more minutes, then serve with your favorite side dish. They also work well as appetizers, with a side of napkins…

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I love Melissa Clark and own several of her cookbooks, Dinner: Changing the Game is perhaps my favorite. Recipes are simple but interesting, they always have some kind of a nice twist that makes me want to try them. I like using ground chicken and turkey in our cooking, but that poses problems, because they can turn out bland and dry very easily. Not the case here, I am sure these will be in our rotation regularly. The combination of ginger, fish sauce, and sesame oil is a true winner. I also like the texture given by the almond flour. I know, totally non-authentic, but when you change the protein, some adjustment is needed. I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

We enjoyed them with stir-fried zucchini and white rice. I crave this meal already.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brioche Pepin

TWO YEARS AGO: Sakura Buche du Printempts

THREE YEARS AGO: Clay Pot Roast Chicken

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2017

FIVE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Korma and a Bonus Recipe

SIX YEARS AGO: Josey Baker’s Olive Bread

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Almonds, A Cookbook Review

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

NINE YEARS AGO: Codruta’s Rolled Oat Sourdough Bread

TEN YEARS AGO: Roasted Corn and Tomato Risotto

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Light Rye Bread

HAPPY EASTER!

For those who celebrate…

Vanilla Cupcakes with Mini-Chocolate Eggs

Meyer Lemon Sugar Cookies
(Flower Bunny design by Haniela)

Egg Nests Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Icing

Egg-Shaped Sugar and Chipotle-Chocolate Cookies

(Here Comes the Sun, design by @sugarbaked; Bunny with Mushrooms design by @montrealconfections)

IN MY KITCHEN, APRIL 2021

In My Kitchen posts are hosted by Sherry, from  Sherry’s Pickings. At the end of this post you will find a link to jump to her site and see what everybody else is sharing this month. I join four times each year, with a new post on the first day of January, April, July and October. Like clockwork. I am the daughter of my Dad, after all.

I like to start by sharing gifts, and this time I have A LOT to be grateful for.

From my friend Caro…

A set of 10 (!!!!) Sugarflair gel food colors. If you are into cookies, macarons, buttercream, you’ve definitely heard of this brand. It is the “creme de la creme” in food coloring. Tricky to find in the US, unless you are ready to pay a great deal of cash for them. Until now, I had just flirted with them online. Not anymore. They are amazing. Thank you so much, Caro!

From my friends Val and Steve…

The most perfect mask ever! And contrary to most I get, this one fits me perfectly. Thank you so so much! Buck seems a little unhappy with it, but I said it is nothing personal against his breed.

From our grad student, Taihao…

My very favorite chocolate treat, which he offered me as a Birthday gift. Since I had no idea he even knew it was my Birthday, the surprise was even sweeter. Thank you, Taihao!

Another Birthday gift, from our friend Heather from sunny CA, Meyer lemons from her backyard.

I already put many of them to use, in macarons, and sandwich cookies. And, of course also in our regular cooking. Thank you, Heather!

From our friend Tanya, tent-baker extraordinaire, a very special cookie cutter that she designed and produced.

Tanya makes and sells cookie cutters in her etsy store. Visit with a click here. And marvel as what she created with this very cutter by reading her blog post on the subject.

A Birthday gift from the coolest couple in NYC, Courtnie and Alex…

I could not believe my eyes when I opened the package! You can set the puzzle as one very large cookie, or make a slightly smaller version removing some of the pieces. It is cool beyond description… I have already put it to use, and you will see the results soon.

From my beloved husband….

As usual, he finds the most amazing plates on ebay. These three were all from Anthropologie, and I cannot pick a favorite, even considering my intense love for elephants. I adore the three of them.

And finally, a most special gift, combination of wedding anniversary and Birthday…. (drum roll)

A mini-projector! Mine is AKASIO, and the only complaint I have is not being able to pair it with the computer via bluetooth. It was a Nightmare on Elm Street trying to make it work, finally we just decided to live with the cable and call it a day. It does pair with the cell phone. Go figure it out. But I love it. It truly opens up the horizons for cookie decorating. So. Much. Fun. On the photo, you can see the big puzzle cookie getting ready for some drawing.

In our kitchen…

Asafetida, a very unique spice used in Indian recipes. I see it as the cousin of fish sauce. You don’t want to sniff it, just trust that the taste it imparts to the food has nothing to do with its fragrance… It is used in tiny amounts, but it will definitely bring a touch of authenticity to your table.

In our kitchen…

This pan, with a triangular shape, was found by Phil in a visit to Marshall’s. I cannot tell you how much we both love it. It has the perfect shape to stir-fry small amounts of mushrooms or veggies. You know that trick that chefs love to do, sending food in the air as they stir-fry? This pan makes it super easy to do. Perfect size for cooking for two, I don’ t know why it’s not far more popular.

In our kitchen…

Chestnut flour. This is a very nice brand, with a delicate flavor and perfect texture. It works especially well in some vegan pastry recipes. Don’t run away, I promise they taste just like the “real thing.” Stay tuned.

In our kitchen…

A patterned silicone mat. It is a tool designed mainly for fondant and marzipan, but I used it to make a chocolate topping for cookies. I promise a blog post about the whole technique, which is surprisingly simple.

In our kitchen…

Speaking of patterned mats, I share also a patterned rolling pin. You can find countless types in shops at etsy.com with a simple search “embossed rolling pin.” I was not sure this tiny one would work well, but I am very impressed. Works like a dream. Still available here.

In our kitchen…

Sakura blossom green tea. This is caffeinated, so I use a little trick to reduce the caffeine a bit, as I like to enjoy tea after dinner. I boil water, put into the cup halfway up, add the tea bag, swirl it a bit for about 20 seconds, discard that water and proceed to make the tea with fresh hot water. Caffeine is very soluble and quite a bit of it is removed in the first brewing. I don’t detect much loss in overall taste of the tea, and it seems to work well for me. This is a green tea with a floral component that adds a lot to it. Order info here.

Speaking of tea, how could I resist this one?

I find it smooth, elegant, mysterious. Unpredictable, dramatic, way too intense, says the opposition. Jury still out.

Do you want to know one of Sally’s secrets?

She is totally obsessed with Audrey… Stencil from etsy.com

In our kitchen…

Cookie cutter & stencil combo. Another slippery slope in etsy.com… So many possibilities. You use the cookie cutter, bake the cookie, ice it, and let it set overnight. Then comes the stencil part, that you can either use an air-brush to get the overall design transferred to the surface, or use thick Royal icing scrubbed over it. I like to air-brush in dark grey or black, and once the ink dries I paint with food pens or luster dust. Check this store, one of my favorite sources.

In our kitchen…

A big bottle of Americolor white gel color. It is the only brand that works well for a cracked design on cookies. So easy to achieve! Cut the cookie shapes you like, brush a light coating of Americolor white (or any other color) and bake. It works best in recipes with a small amount of baking powder so that there is more lift during baking. Other brands do not work the same way, so keep that in mind. The dye does all the work, and the effect is really quite beautiful and elegant.

In our kitchen…

My little treasure chest of Royal icing flowers, ready and waiting to be added to cookies or cupcakes. I still need to work on the rose buds, there is a lot of room for improvement in those, but little by little I’m going to get there.

In our kitchen…

I know, a lot of cookie-oriented things, but that is the path I’ve been following lately. This set of hexagonal cookie cutters is one of my favorites. The shape is unusual and fun to play with.

All cookies except Thumper were made using the projector. Thumper was quite likely the most involved cookie I’ve made so far, following a tutorial online. I might compose a blog post about it at some point. The drawing is in fact a Royal icing transfer.

In our kitchen…

A very unusual cookbook. No recipes, just ideas. One thousand ideas, to be precise. As you flip through the pages, you’ll see photos of beautiful cakes, cupcakes, cookies, with a number and the name of the bakery where they were made. The final pages of the book list all the numbers and the techniques used.

For instance, if you look at this particular page, you will see a picture with three flower-shaped cookies, number #589. Going on the list I saw they were sugar cookies decorated with with Royal icing, so I created my version of one of those cookies. Some people left pretty negative reviews for the book on amazon, complaining that “there are no recipes or instructions”, but I think they totally missed the point. It is more an inspirational type of book, not a guide. Order info here.

Well, I toyed with the idea of pulling an April 1st on the dogs, telling them it is a no-no for their five minutes of fame in MY blog. Because, let’s make it clear. It is MY blog. And, for reasons that shall become clear as I disclose their filthy ways, I am being VERY kind for allowing two of the three derelicts to bark their piece.

So, here’s what they’ve been up to in the past three months…

Oscar undoubtedly sees himself as the King of the World

Buck is definitely the Emperor of the Backyard….

No matter the weather, he patrols every square inch of the backyard when we put him outside, and only comes back when satisfied that things are how they are supposed to be in every single little spot. He always follows the same path, a very methodical pup.

and then, of course, we have the Photobomber of the Jungle…

Great composition, courtesy of my friend Steve…

and when he is not in his virtual jungle, he is best known as the Keeper of the Couch…

Oscar believes sofas and couches are for sissies. In fact, he never ceases to amaze us with his odd ways to get comfy.

Although in rare occasions, he will act like a more “normal” pup…

You would think that these two get along great, right? Well, not exactly, as my poor left ankle will prove to you.

Innocent? Not so fast, Black-Dotted Hero… On a Saturday night, as I sat down on a comfy arm chair to talk to my sexy husband, Oscar and Bogey approached the chair, and stood one on each side. All of a sudden I noticed Bogey growling at Oscar, showing him some major gums. In seconds, Oscar went for his leg but got my foot instead. Twice. The pain was something, as his bite definitely hit a nerve (literally). So, as I publish this post, I will be on day 4 of a 10-day course of antibiotics, and unable to wear closed shoes, as my ankle is very swollen.

They were charged and tried with a felony offense and sentenced to 14 days with no flesh of the steer. And had to sit through a long lecture on proper canine behavior, new rules and regulations set forth by His Highness, The Alpha Human.

Obviously, such turn of events truly pleased the oldest, most distinguished member of the pack…

The good boy is in fact the only one allowed to bond with his favorite human on her favorite couch…

Let’s make it abundantly clear: we did not feed him egg shells. He STOLE a shell that fell on the floor, ran away through the house with it, and then decided it was too nasty to consume. Those are the facts. His sentence has therefore been altered to 18 days without the flesh of the steer.

That’s all folks! I shiver to think what they will come up with for the next installment of IMK. See you (if I am still alive) on July 1st (clockwork, remember?).

To see what is happening in kitchens of other food bloggers around the world,

visit Sherry’s site with a click here.

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2020

TWO YEARS AGO:  In My Kitchen, April 2019

THREE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2018

FOUR YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2016

SIX YEARS AGO: Spring has Sprung with Suzanne Goin

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Chai Brownies

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pomegranate-Molasses Glazed Carrots

NINE YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze

TEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Spring Rolls on a Spring Day